<![CDATA[PAGE & SPINE - TWT-JUL '12]]>Sun, 22 Apr 2018 05:07:08 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[O. HENRY, WE'RE BA-A-ACK! ~ N.K. Wagner]]>Fri, 27 Jul 2012 14:22:17 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/o-henry-were-ba-a-ack-nk-wagnerPicture
     The internet is saturated with blogs and newspaper articles heralding the resurgence of the short story as a popular literary form.  I say, “It’s about time.” 
     I have nothing against a good novel, you understand.  I make no secret of my addiction to historical romances and spy novels and detective series and … you get the idea.
     But there are times when a well written short story fits into my wasted-time-waiting schedule perfectly.  Ten minutes here, a half hour there and I meet a character, encounter-examine-resolve a dilemma, marvel at an ingenious plot twist, and bingo! It’s time to get on with life.  No background to remember or re-read, no interrupted train of thought.  I read it, enjoy it, give a little thought to the author’s point and move on.
     Short story collections based upon a single theme are a pleasant compromise with the new every-scene-is-a-new-chapter novel or (to me) the always incomplete-feeling novella.  And with my e-reader I can sample these gems by new writers for under a dollar.  If the writer is good, it’s a great introduction to his/her longer works.  If he’s awful, what have I lost?
      In reality, readers of The New Yorker and Readers’ Digest, among others, know the short story never actually died.  Its availability became limited as the publishing world contracted while trying to readjust to the increasing expenses of producing the magazines that brought quality short stories to their readers.  As the world economy further contracts, fewer readers subscribe to the print literary magazines that used to pay for quality writing, and ad revenue plummets as well.  Most of the magazines have either folded, or the better writers have moved to where the money is – e-publishing.
      Interestingly, it isn’t the publishing houses that are sparking the rebirth of the short story.  It’s independent, small e-zines like Page & Spine and self-published authors like this week’s Guest Writer Avril Borthiry who are feeding the need for high quality reading material at reasonable prices.  And it’s discriminating readers like you who appreciate the no-room-for-weaknesses expertise that makes a short story shine.  You are the driving force behind this phoenix’s rebirth.  The more demand you create by reading literary magazines and e-zines, the more you encourage good writing by downloading singles and short story collections from the electronic bookstores, the more high quality writers will be encouraged to write this specialized form of literature.
     Ultimately, it is the short story reader who will reap the reward.

copyright 2012


<![CDATA[REVIEW:  WINTER'S BONE BY DANIEL WOODRELL, 2006 ~   LEE ALLEN HILL]]>Fri, 27 Jul 2012 14:22:06 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/review-winters-bone-by-daniel-woodrell-2006-lee-allen-hillPicture
     Daniel Woodrell writes ugly as beautifully as anyone I have come across. And he found just the place to exploit his talent.
     The back hollows of Missouri’s Ozarks nurture just the kind of neo-ugly we’d expect to read about only in graphic novels or pulp fiction paperbacks. Instead, Woodrell gave us literature with Winter’s Bone, an unflinchingly corrupt story told in the cadences of the ancient mountain lyrics that have chronicled centuries of poverty, isolation, crime, and fiefdoms built upon little more than blood and bone loyalties.
     Ree Dolly is a 16-year-old fringe player blood-bound to the notorious and influential Dolly clan. Her daddy, a sometime cooker in the family’s crystal meth business, has skipped bail and disappeared into the lawless, change-averse hills and hollers that hold secrets more holy than God. If he doesn’t return in time for his court date, Ree, her younger brothers and dementia-addled mother—barely scraping by on grudging handouts—will lose their house, and what meager security they claim. That is the gist, the grist, the grit of story—Ree’s struggles to find her father, and save her hardscrabble home.
      And here’s where Woodrell gets lyrical. The Ozarks of the Dollys has only selectively evolved. Sure, crystal meth has replaced moonshine as the prime revenue source for the entire region, but the intrigues, insularity, and the cruel hierarchy imposed by extended families are, literally, as old as the hills. It is this time rift that provides the dark ink in which Ree’s story iswritten. Given a cast of rural characters lifted out one mugshot at a time, this story could haveeasily descended into rank despair, but—while there is plenty of backwoods anguish—Woodrell draws us one character too gritty to be pitied, too flawed to be good, and too resigned to be redeemed by anything outside the harsh rules governing the only world she will ever know. She is a Dolly. If she is to prevail, she must do it the Dolly way. It is not pretty, but Woodrell—in true Ozark fashion—won’t brook compromises.
     See what I mean by ugly? But I’m barely scratching the rust off a beautifully written Woodrell is very much his own writer. This is a unique novel written about a unique land and a hybrid culture he clearly knows from the inside out. Still, a couple of comparisons come to mind: James Dickey, and Cormac McCarthy. The first for his sensibility for poetic turns, the second for his unrelenting sense of time and place.
     A very fair film has been made from Winter’s Bone. The director got much of it right.  But nothing will substitute for the lyricism Woodrell wrote onto every page of this literate novel.
     Read the book, then see the movie, or do it the other way around. I don’t care. But pay attention to this guy. He’s one of the best we’ve got.

copyright 2012 


editor's note: All reviews are the sole opinion of the author.  They are not an endorsement by Page & Spine.  -NKW 

<![CDATA[AMERICA'S SILLY SEASON ~ N.K. Wagner]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2012 14:22:37 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/americas-silly-season-nk-wagnerPicture
     Are you bored yet? It's not even Labor Day, and we're well into what our British cousins call "the silly season", the national political campaigns. While the British have the good taste to restrict political campaigns to the six months prior to elections, in the US President Obama was elected in November, 2008 and I don't believe a single politician on any side of the aisle has stopped campaigning since.
     Every function of government is viewed in terms of gaining or losing political points, not the carrying on of the people's business. The budget, the war, monetary policy, entitlements, national security, healthcare, employment -- is there any issue that hasn't been turned into a petty campaign football?
     It's all about jobs, by the way. Politicians winning or keeping their jobs, that is. I want to wave my arms and shout "Hey guys! Remember us? We're The People -- the ones you're supposed to be serving. Remember us? Your employers!
     This is an important election in terms of the philosophical path our country is going to take. If you haven't read The Constitution in a while, I want to remind you it contains the job descriptions of your public servants. Are they doing the job you hired them to do when you elected them? Are they running the government according to the rules -- written down, amended, agreed upon and adopted by these United States? If not, why not?
     If you violate company policy you get fired. If you violate an organization's by-laws you're removed from office. If you violate your oath -- that's right, your oath, with your hand raised and everything -- to "preserve protect and defend The Constitution...so help me, God", shouldn't there be a penalty for violating your sacred oath? Like, maybe, not getting your contract renewed?
     I don't want to hear about right or wrong. Both sides are equally to blame and for more years than any of us have been alive. So what? Does the prior breaking of a law without penalty render the law unenforceable? Try defending yourself against your next speeding ticket with that argument. I dare you.
     This November, drag yourself off the couch for an hour or so and go vote. I don't care who you vote for -- or against. Just take the time to evaluate the job performance of your current employees based upon their job descriptions in The Constitution. Decide which contracts deserve renewing, and which of The People's servants should try earning a living in the current job market.
     You don't need to pass a law to enforce term limits. You just have to vote.

Copyright 2012


<![CDATA[REBEL WITHOUT A CLAUSE ~ Lee Allen Hill]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2012 14:22:29 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/rebel-without-a-clause-lee-allen-hillPicture
      Excuse me, but you just wrote ‘just’. That’s a no-no.
     Yeah? Says who?
     Oh, just about everyone on FanStory.com, your entire Writers’ Group, the Girl Scouts of America, and I believe the Pope ‘just’ issued a canon…
     Just leave the Pope out of this. And stop reading my reviews, nosey parker.
     Man, that one guy reamed you pretty good. Said you were ‘wordy’ and ‘undisciplined’.

     I’m a wordslinger, dude, that’s what I do. These criticisms just roll off my back. What’s more, I’m creative, not undisciplined. There’s a difference, you know? Now crawl back into the dank recesses of my alter ego’s parallel psyche and leave me the freakin’ french fries alone.
     Whoa! Defensive, dude! And wordy! Save some dictionary for the rest of us, huh?
     Okay, so I got carried away. Big whoop.
     And then there was that lady who had some choice words for you, too. About your poor choice of words, if I remember correctly.
     I’ll have you know adverbs are perfectly good…
    You just wrote ‘perfectly’ … tsk, tsk—no ‘ly’ words, Shakespeare. It’s in the manual.
     Et tu, Brutal?
     And what about your Flash story? That guy nearly ripped you a new…
     Bloody Flashionista! And for your information, I never called it a Flash story. It was … short, that’s all. So his bloody ‘flash rules’ didn’t even apply.
     You just used ‘bloody’ twice in close proximity. Thou shalt not…
     Yeah? Well you just used ‘just’!
     And I was totally out of line. Strike it out, man! Dele! Out, out damn ‘just’!
     I don’t care what you say, I refuse to strike it.
     Really? Who are you, Rebel Without a Clause?
     I just don’t happen to think we all need to follow the same rules. They’re trying to homogenize us. They want every book to sound the same. That way they don’t have to take any risks. And we—the writers—are letting them get away with it. Criminy, we’re even parroting their rules. Why? Not for art, certainly. For a pay day.
     Someone said, ‘Rules are the framework of…’
     Oh, go screw your someone. Did James Joyce follow these stupid rules? Hemingway? Virginia Wolf? Nero Wolf, for that matter?
     Hmmm, let me think. Dead. Dead. Dead. And would be dead, if the bugger ever lived. You’re out of touch, bro. You got to go with the flow, man. Walk the straight and narrow. Get on the same page…

     And become just another one of your cliches?
     Tsk, tsk, tsk.
     What now?
     You just wrote ‘just’. That’s a no-no.

Copyright 2012


<![CDATA[ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL ~ Susan Clay Baldwin]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:22:53 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/alls-well-that-ends-well-susan-clay-baldwinPicture
     My sister Anne, and I were the only two children in my family. Anne loved dolls, tea parties and frilly dresses with a big bow in her hair. I, on the other hand, was a tom-boy. The thought of a bow stuck on my head made me shudder.

     Taking this into consideration, my Daddy left Anne's supervision in the capable hands of my Mama. As for me, I was the child whom he deemed the practical choice, to be taken under his wing. Daddy was a mastermind at creating 'lessons' that he felt would result in my becoming a well- rounded member of society.

     He, being an avid horseman, decided that my learning to ride was necessary to help achieve that goal. I was six years old and had not a clue what this involved.

     Still, I was all about it!    

     Promptly, he set out to begin the mission. One day, he proudly appeared pulling a horse trailer in our driveway ... a huge horse inside. Mama expressed some concern, wondering if maybe a pony might be a more reasonable choice. Daddy reasoned that ponies were meant for little children to ride. They were often ill-tempered and tended to nip people. This issue was settled.

     According to Daddy's standards, things were never done half-way. In the truck seat there was a full compliment of riding attire ... including high riding boots, beige jodhpurs, white shirt, black tie and hard hat. A crop completed my riding habit.

     At this point it might be prudent to give a little background information to help the reader more clearly see the areas where I would be practicing needed skills for this undertaking. We lived in a rural location that had no hard-surface roads. My Grandparents owned a large farm with our two houses being separated by a small pasture. My horse would graze the pasture and be quartered in the farm barn. 

     Now, I will describe my equine partner in these lessons ... Nellie. She was a white mare that had aged very nearly into the 'Nag' category. Her eyes were a bit milky, teeth worn and hooves pretty raggedy. Daddy had summoned up some measure of common sense! Sweet and gentle, she nudged me, while on tip-toes (my head reached about the level of her stomach), I scratched between her droopy ears. I had fallen in love!

     Daddy produced a bridle, with curb bit, blanket and English saddle. He busily began getting her ready for my first ride. Satisfied all around, he lifted me up and sat my jodhpurs-clad bottom firmly on the saddle's seat. He placed the reins in my hands, showing me how to hold them close together at the base of her neck for better control. Each foot was placed in its respective stirrup and heels shoved down to the proper angle. The crop was to be used for a light flick on her a flank in case I needed to coax on a little greater speed.

     As Daddy watched closely, up the road we went ... me perched happily atop Nellie. Nellie plodded along willingly but with little enthusiasm. 

     After covering about a mile or so, I decided to go back and show off my great riding ability. Those wise in the ways of a horse, know that when one is turned homeward, its entire attitude changes. This well-known fact had slipped Daddy's mind. As I turned her around in that direction, the whole world changed!  Suddenly her plodding walk became a warp-three speed trot ... ears alert, eye-sight twenty-twenty and nose stretched out in anticipation of the barn and a full box of oats.

     An English saddle doesn't offer much in the way of anything for holding to and having dropped the reins, I luckily managed to find one small space between the saddle and her neck. Bouncing around like grease on a hot griddle ... hold on I did!

     Arriving at the barn, Nellie came to dead halt. I tumbled in a small heap on the ground. Daddy gently picked me to my feet ... brushing away hay straw and tears.

     Holding my little hand in his big one, we walked the road toward home. Coming across my hard hat and crop, he picked them up and casually handed them to me ... it was clear indication that horsemanship had not been accomplished to his satisfaction. The large lump in my throat dropped like a rock to my stomach.

     Grinning, he assured me "with a little more practice, Susan, you'll improve."

     The lessons continued. I had inherited determination genes from Daddy. We two became a combined force, with which Nellie had to reckon, until I finally completed the mission at hand.

     As I grew, Daddy made me the proud owner of a five gaited saddle horse. I spent many hours enjoying riding her ... often with him beside me on his mount.

     I eventually began competing in horse shows. More than a few times, I proudly came out of the ring with a coveted tricolor ribbon attached to my horse's bridle.

     Thinking back on those first attempts at achieving success in that particular mission (there were many), I realize that I had 'learned' the two most important things that assured my mental and physical well-being at my young age. The first was the realization that my Daddy loved his tom-boy. The second was remembering to always, always quickly jump off Nellie's back when she headed for the barn, and let her take the reins.

Copyright 2012


<![CDATA[RACHEL AND LEAH ~ Alison Winfree Pickrell]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:22:45 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/rachel-and-leah-alison-winfree-pickrellPicture
     I have always had a problem with the story of Jacob and his two wives.  First came Leah, steady, dependable, mother of many sons.  Then came Rachel, ravishingly beautiful but only producing two sons, the last of which took her life.  Reading between the lines, I am afraid Leah was never appreciated for her worth in the family, taken for granted, pushed aside to make room for her more delectable sister.
     How many of us have Leahs and Rachels in our own lives?  For me, Leah was teaching school.  Every day for thirty years I walked through classrooms of children: teaching, encouraging, shepherding.  And every month I brought home a paycheck that ensured we would have a roof over our heads and electricity to light it.  Without it I wouldn’t have the house or the life I enjoy today as a retired person.  Teaching gave me badly needed health insurance and equally necessary summer vacations.  But was Leah enough for me?  No.
     I wanted Rachel: writing.  I wanted to be a published novelist and I went after this Rachel with a passion I never had for Leah.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my years as a special education teacher and conscientiously worked every day to do my best, but my goal, the prize that I longed for was to get my words into print.  To see my name on the cover of a book.
     And now I have her, in the form of four published books with two more in the wings.  I have my Rachel, but has she increased my bank account?  Have I been able to buy needful things with the money she has earned?  No.  Thank goodness I get a retirement check every month.  If I had to live on what Rachel has produced, we’d all be in the local shelter.   I have to admit, I still love and pursue Rachel with undying passion, but I certainly appreciate my Leah and all that she has provided through her bountiful loins.
     How about you, what unappreciated Leahs and vaunted Rachels do you have in your own life?

copyright 2012

Reprint from Bindings at http://blogs.christianpost.com/bindings/

Visit Alison Winfree Pickrell


<![CDATA[PEOPLE IS NOISY ~ Lee Allen Hill]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2012 14:23:06 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/people-is-noisy-lee-allen-hillPicture
     I wrote a story once about a woman who believed she was the last person alive on a devastated Earth. (Footprints From the Before -ed.) Not an original idea I know, but every writer has to purge his/her post-apocalyptic vision sooner or later. Anyway, once she comes to grips with her situation, our heroine wisely treks to what used to be Amish country and takes up residence on a farm that was already equipped to function without a power grid, refrigeration, flush toilets, or Purel dispensers every twenty feet. Years pass and our stout girl manages to eke out a self-sufficient, if lonely, existence—until the day she notices human footprints in the dust just outside her kraal. That’s where the her story really gets interesting.  Now, while I’m not rooting for the apocalypse, I am beginning to scout a new place to live. A place beyond the reach of American Idol and all its insipid clones. A place where all politicians are mute without me having to press a button. A place where the price of gasoline is inconsequential.
     ‘So go find yourself a mountaintop,’ you tell me.
     Well, fair enough. But how high will I have to climb to out-scale the rip of chainsaws, and the roar of strip mining equipment? They don’t make mountains that high anymore. Am I the only one who can’t hear the difference between America’s Got Talent, and the incessant whoop of ambulance sirens? They both indicate a sickness to me. When was it decreed that life has to be so freakin’ noisy?
     I ask myself if I could actually live alone like the heroine in my story. I don’t think so. 
     Mostly because I don’t have the mechanical or survival skills it would require. And anyway, I have no desire to displace a perfectly competent Amish family from its hard-earned, simple home.
     Still, when I dream about being that lone woman, I always come back to that moment when she comes across those alien human footprints, and it all comes rushing back to her with a crystalline clarity. See, a person is a just a person. But people is a whole other animal. People is complicated. And given time, people is noisy.
     If you don’t believe me, you must be Amish… and live on a mountaintop.

copyright 2012


<![CDATA[REVIEW:  THE ARTIST'S WAY BY JULIA CAMERON ~             D. J. S. HARRINGTON]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2012 14:23:00 GMThttp://pagespineficshowcase.com/twt-jul-12/review-the-artists-way-by-julia-cameron-d-j-s-harringtonPicture
     When our esteemed editor-in-chief, president of the blog, oh, you know who I mean, when n.k. sent the call out for book reviews, I thought, “Ah, hah! I have the perfect one.” But, attempting to give the reader even a glimpse of the experience proved to be a daunting task. It is not just a book but an author, who changing my life. Not just as a writer, but as a person. Is that a powerful statement? Yes, but these are powerful books.
     The writer I am speaking of is Julia Cameron. I started with her book, “The Artist’s Way” and am now continuing my journey with “The Right to Write.” I call it a journey because with both books, your mindset will start at one point and end at a very different destination. For clarity sake, I will confide my thoughts and opinions to the first book, “The Artist’s Way.”
     Ms Cameron subtitled it, “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” It is a book not just for active writers, painters, or anyone else who would label themselves artists. Through the twelve weeks of exploration and tasks, Ms Cameron opens up a new way of seeing your world. For example, before reading the first page I would have called myself very close to being an atheist, certainly not a Christian or member of any other religion. I had explored them all and found them empty. So when Ms Cameron mentioned God in the introduction, I almost threw the book in the trash. But, I kept reading and found that her definition of God found a place in my heart and soul. To quote Julia, “…we are talking about is a creative energy. God is useful shorthand for many of us, but so is Goddess, Mind, Universe, Source, and Higher Power…The point is not what you name it.” She believes that by listening to messages sent to us via the Higher Power, we open ourselves to the creative path that is waiting for us all. We also need to trust those messages to lead us to where we need to go. A mantra repeated in the book is, “Leap, and the net will appear.” All of this is a radical change for one who believed only hard work and extreme good lucky would bring success to any artists.
     Ms Cameron lists her Basic Principles that govern the twelve weeks of spiritual and creative growth. The first one states, “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.” Her book takes you along a path of growth with experiments and essays that draws the reader deeper and deeper into their own beliefs. Many times, I had to put the book aside when I became angry or disgusted. But at second glance, I would always gain new insight into my past or present assumptions on life, creativity, and the Almighty. As she says, “Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.” With Ms Cameron’s guidance, I have discovered long forgotten pains that have stopped me from being the writer I could be and the person I should be.
     The two tasks that Ms Cameron insists are essential are The Morning Papers; three handwritten pages done each morning. They are put aside, not edited or looked at again. The second are Artist Dates. These are periods of time the reader is to set aside for themselves to explore or experience the “inner artist.” Both are used to help clear away any blockage to creativity. Along the way, she helps dig deep into long held beliefs and new directions of thought.
     It is difficult to put into a few paragraphs the essence of this book. The impact this book has had on my life is impossible to describe. But, I urge everyone who writes daily, has been published, or never ever shown their writing to anyone else, to read The Artist’s Way. It’s a life-changer.
     Ms Cameron has also done a book that speaks specifically to writers is “The Right to Write.” I will leave that review for another time, except to say that she believes we are all born writers.

copyright 2012


editor's note: All reviews are the sole opinion of the author.  They are not an endorsement by Page & Spine.  -NKW